Before shipping goods, many firms will work on payment against a ‘Letter of Credit’. Or in other words, goods paid for when arrived. If goods are damaged on arrival then funds will not be released.

Packaging is vital as there will be many “third parties” handling each consignment, therefore too many firms will do their best at avoiding being the company responsible for any damage. “Passing the buck” is a phrase we use a lot in the exporting business.

Make sure you spend time securing labelling correctly. If in doubt, ask the customer to check the ‘Shipping label‘ as translation can often be wrong, even in something as little as an address label.

Do not ship with the cheapest company. We recommend only using a reputable Shipper. If possible use a firm you have used previously, because in the long run the lost or damage costs could out way the hassle of the claim. More importantly you may upset a now disappointed customer who may never order again with you again.

A good Shipping Agent will also advise on the documentation needed for each individual foreign country. Please note also that ‘Certificates of Origin’ are a necessity in some foreign countries and goods will be held in local customs if not accompanied with one of those. .

Ensure you keep a copy of each document, and always save in your own file an original Bill of Lading. These are costly to reproduce and certain countries still require a hard copy. We have just had documents signed for in Kenya that immediately went missing. Luckily we have managed to issue out the three originals copies we held on file.

Finally, air freight by nature of speed is the better way to send smaller items. Less handling means less risks. Also any loss or damage can be reported within days of shipping, and not months.

By Claire Spillane, Westermans International